Pain happens in two different places. It occurs where the body tissue has been damaged, and it happens in the brain when it learns about the first place.
The fact that pain registers in the brain does not diminish or dismiss the pain as “all in your head.” The pain is very real. For many, it is disabling.
Pain sufferers have long used cannabis and its derivatives for relief of chronic pain.
Anatomy of pain
The damage to body tissue is often obvious, whether it is a bullet wound or surgical intervention. Sometimes, it is less clear, perhaps, as the result of cancer eating at an organ or inflammation in a joint. And, it often signals the failure of a system like chest pain or diabetic neuropathy.
Chronic pain also risks complicating psychological response making diagnosis difficult and treatment complicated.
Regardless of the origin, neurotransmitters carry news of the pain, severity, and location swiftly to the brain’s pain locale.
Common treatments include medication, medical procedures, and lifestyle modifications. These represent ways to manage pain – not to cure it. Successful for some, they do little for others.
- Medications include brand name acetaminophen, aspirin, and NSAIDs to reduce inflammation.
- Heavily regulated pain relievers list codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, and the oxy-versions.
- And, there are pharmacological and immunological agents, like some anticonvulsants and anti-depressants, that seem to ally effectively with other pharma treatments.
- Electrical stimulation sends mild electric shocks into the muscles to energize and stabilize neurotransmitters.
- Steroid injections and ablations block nerves to stop them from sending pain signals to the brain.
- Acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments work from some patients
- Surgical procedures may remove pain inducing elements or correct injuries that have healed incorrectly.
- Weight reduction and diets including anti-inflammatory nutrition
- Medically supervised physical therapy
- Massage, Yoga, and Tai Chi
- Meditation or cognitive-behavioral therapy
Making cannabis a lifestyle change
Regulations have limited medical research on the use and efficacy of cannabis for treatment of chronic pain. However, you can infer its value from its bio-neuro-chemical mechanism.
Well-documented discoveries show that the mammalian brain and body hold an endocannabinoid system. This neural signaling system has four components according to Vincenzo Di Marzo, Endocannabinoid Research Group:
- Cannabinoid receptors
- Endogenous agonists of such receptors
- Enzymes and proteins regulating tissue levels
- Enzymes and proteins regulating cannabinoid receptors
This endocannabinoid system plays a central role in “energy intake, processing and storage, the immune response, reproduction, and cell fate.”
Unfortunately, the system is subject to degradation and dysfunction. Dr. Di Marzo notes, “Endocannabinoids are deeply involved in pain processing at peripheral, spinal and supra‐spinal sites.”
Cannabis delivers cannabinoid receptors that correct this degradation and dysfunction restoring the brain’s natural bliss. And, they do so without the negative side-effects of over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Best cannabis strains for chronic pain
The higher THC level in Sativa and Sativa-dominant strains produces a stronger psychoactive high. The euphoria or happy buzz can help users ignore or overlook their pain.
The higher cannabinoid level in Indicas sedates the body throughout – muscles, nerves, and brain. That makes Indicas and Indica-dominant strains the first choice of those with chronic pain.
But, adding Sativa to Indica lets users go about their workday with a clear head and manageable pain.
Using cannabis edibles allows patients to discretely measure their pain relief throughout their days and evenings.
- ACDC: With an overwhelming CBD, ACDC provides the pain patient with a happy euphoric head and relaxed body. A hybrid, this strain will provide the user with cherry and berry taste and smoke and a mild but lasting relaxing sensation and pain relief.
- Afghan Kush: About 100% Indica, the Afghan Kush will hit the body with fast and long-lasting pain relief from THC. A heavy whiff of hashish, spices, and incense precedes a heavy hit that will scare first timers. THC over 21% sedate and relieve pain, but it can also induce anxiety.
- Canna-Tsu: A Sativa-dominant hydride, it has a high CBD content that targets pain with little or no psychoactive punch. Patients use it for anxiety, pain, and spasms. And, they like the lasting mellow body feel and the ability to work with a clear head.
- Granddaddy Purple: This award-winner has a great lineage in Purple Urkle, Big Bud, and Grape Ape. The smell and taste has rich grape essence. The Indica and 18% THC leaves a deep body stone, but it also creates an energetic high.
- Harlequin: This Sativa-dominant hybrid is loaded with CBD to reduce inflammation-related pain with minimum psychoactive effect. Harlequin has a long reputation for relieving anxiety, migraines, and chronic pain without dizzying mind effects.
- Hindu Kush: This Kush dates to the origin of cannabis legends. Earthy and sweet, it leaves the body stoned and the brain relaxed. THC runs 15% to 20% to kill stress, pain, and insomnia.
- Jack Herer: Sativa-dominant, Jack Herer produces uplifting and energizing effects and pain relief that targets neuropathic pain. In addition to the THC, it harbors terpenoid like Pinene that reduce stress and tissue inflammation.
- Sensi Star: An award-winning Indica-dominant, Sensi Star may leave user couch-bound as it stimulates synapses. Pungent aromas and flavors mix grapefruit, lemon, and mint. And, its 18% THC relieves stress and pain.
- Sleestack X Skunk: The sweet and sour Sativa-dominant hybrid (70/30) leaves the body relaxed and tingling from its 20% THC. It’s a classic among stoners, but the skunk and spice aroma turns others off. It starts with an early physical relaxant and settles into a lasting mental energy.
- White Berry: The hybrid is 75% Indica and delivers berry and citrus smell and taste. Its heavy stone will set you back and down, so patients learn to pace themselves. Easy to raise for medical use, new users are advised to watch for lazy results in long-term use.
In looking for cannabis treatment for chronic pain, patients tend toward the high CBD because of the pain relief without a huge cerebral impact. They prefer Indicas and Indica-dominant hybrids because they soothe and relieve rather than excite and confuse. And, they sometimes look for the psychoactive jolt from high THC as means of forgetting the pain.